Joshua Young




my brother and i used to visit
her house and talk a couple times a week.
but we never saw her smoke
and that’s what killed her
she hid it well—my father used to tell us stories
about how his uniforms always stunk of her and
her cigarettes
the house was the same as it always was,
except one of the bodies was dying, slowly dying
no couch just a hospital bed surrounded by chairs

          for visitors

she started giving us things
paintings, pictures, books, and even her car
our first—sold it to us for a dollar
she’d sit there like she wasn’t dying and tell
stories about her son, our father
she’d cough and doze off, eyes flickering, lips parted

it wasn’t till she passed that we went back
my brother and i
but things were different
on the porch hundreds of butts
grandpa wasn’t much of a talker
he never opened up to us,
he wasn’t one for words
he’d mumble and say, “huh?”
after everything we said
clicking up his hearing aid
he never wanted to hear about us,
just surface scratching
just sit there and ask about
school, work, and family
the practical things, stable things
things that led to money, to a real life

and secretly i wished he would’ve gone instead of her

i’m am still not ashamed of this thought
it’s simple
he didn’t love us the way she did
we were mandatory loves

boys of his son
boys he had to love
he remarried and moved—texas

mother fucking texas

pawned off her things to us
paintings, pictures, clothing, dogs, bedding, records
it didn’t matter
everything connected to her
he pushed away
i want to believe that he did it to rid
himself of her image
beat the reminder
but his new wife is a reminder
new, a replacement

our garage
half packed—
the right side—
with her things

i still remember her painting
of raggedy ann
staring at the ones who stared back.



Joshua Young lives in Chicago with his wife, son, and dog. He is the author of When the Wolves Quit: A Play in Verse (Gold Wake Press 2012). For info about his writing, films, and other projects check out